One area which must be improved

Sometimes, you just run into a hot pitcher. You face a guy that can’t be touched.

Last night was one of those times.

Mike Fiers has come out of nowhere. He was selected in the 22nd round of the 2009 draft out of little-known Nova Southeastern University and didn’t make his first appearance in the big leagues until he was 26.

Apparently the guy is a late bloomer. Fiers dominated the red-hot Nationals last night, allowing just four hits and striking out nine over 6 1/3 scoreless innings.

Tip your cap and move on. There’s not much else the Nats can do.

One thing the Nats can do, and should do, however, is work on holding runners. That’s an area which simply must improve.

The Brewers stole three bases last night (all of which came in the fifth inning and all of which came around to score) and were caught only once. That one caught stealing was the first time the Nationals have thrown out a runner attempting to steal since September 15, 2006.

Just kidding. It only seems like it’s been that long.

The Nationals have allowed the second-worst stolen base percentage in the majors at this point. A whopping 84 percent of runners attempting to steal against the Nats have reached safely, a number which is behind only the Pirates, who somehow have managed to throw out only nine of 92 base runners.

The five Nationals catchers that have seen major league time this season (Jesus Flores, Sandy Leon, Wilson Ramos, Jhonatan Solano and Carlos Maldonado) have combined to nab 13-of-81 runners. Part of the blame surely falls on their shoulders, as those guys are the ones who need to make accurate, strong throws in order to gun guys down.

stammen-grey-throws-col-sidebar.jpgBut a large part of the blame also needs to fall on the Nationals’ pitchers.

Both Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Gomez stole second base on reliever Craig Stammen last night, moving from first base into scoring position. Counting those two swiped bags, runners are now 10-for-10 when it comes to stealing bases off Stammen this season.

Jordan Zimmermann has allowed all seven runners who have tried to steal against him to advance safely. Gio Gonzalez has given up seven stolen bases and only helped gun down one runner. For as fast as he throws, Stephen Strasburg’s move to the plate hasn’t been quick enough to stop runners this season, as he’s allowed nine of 11 attempted base stealers to move up.

This is a problem which must be addressed. There are very few negative areas which jump out when you watch this Nationals team, but the number of stolen bases against is one of them.

As we get deeper into the season and closer to the playoffs, runs will become more meaningful. Every base will mean more. And both the pitchers and catchers on the Nationals’ roster will need to ensure that runners can’t just swipe bags at will.

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